When you start using Linux and keep an eye on Linux-based sites and forums you often come across terms like GUI, CLI and sometimes TUI.

In this chapter on Linux Jargon Buster explains these terms briefly so that as a (new) Linux user you can better understand the context in which these abbreviations are used.

Honestly, terms like GUI, CLI or TUI are not exclusively limited to Linux. These are general computer terms, and you will notice that they are also used in non-Linux discussions.

Graphical User Interface

This is probably the most common term you will find in this FOSS. Indeed, we focus on Linux desktop users and try to cover easy-to-use graphical methods and applications.

A graphical user interface (GUI) or a graphical application is basically everything you can communicate with a mouse, a touchpad or a touch screen. They have icons and other visual concepts and have access to functions using the mouse pointer.

GIMP interface : GUI application for photo editing

Under Linux, the desktop environment provides a graphical interface for interaction with the system. You can then use graphical applications such as GIMP, VLC Firefox, LibreOffice, file manager, etc. for various tasks.

The GUI has simplified calculations for normal users, otherwise it would remain a user area.

CLI – Command Line Interface

Essentially, a CLI is a command line program that accepts inputs to perform a specific function. In principle, any application that can be used via commands in the terminal belongs to this category.

apt-cache is a CLI tool for interacting with the Debian-based APT cache.

Early computers didn’t have mice to communicate with the operating system. You had to deal with the machine through commands.

If you think it’s difficult, you should know that the first computers didn’t even have a screen where you could see what was being printed, but a real paper printer on which you could print commands. I’ve never used or seen a computer like this before in my life. I probably used some microcontrollers during my studies.

Ken Thompson and Dennis Ritchie are working on a UNIX operating system on a PDP 11 computer. | Image lending

Is CLI relevant today? Absolutely. Teams always have their advantages, especially when it comes to the main function and configuration of the operating system, such as firewall configuration, network management or even packet management.

You can have a GUI application to perform the same task, but the commands provide more detailed access to these functions. In any case, you will notice that the GUI application also communicates with the operating system by means of commands (used in the code).

Manual brake control uses the following FFMPEG CLI tool.

Many popular graphics applications are often based on CLI tools. Take the handbrake, for example. This is a popular open source media converter that uses the FFMPEG command-line tool.

It is clear that the use of command line tools is not as simple as the use of graphical tools. Don’t worry about it. If you have no special needs, you should be able to use your Linux system in graphical form. However, it is very useful to know the basic commands of Linux.

TUI – Terminal User Interface (a.k.a. Text User Interface)

It is the rarest of the three terms. The TUI is essentially part of the GUI and the CLI. Confused? Let me explain.

You already know that the first computers used CLI. For the real GUI, the text-based user interface provided a very simple form of graphical interaction in the terminal. You have more visual effects, and you can use the mouse and keyboard to interact with the application.

nnn file browser in the terminal

TUI – text-based user interface or terminal user interface. The text, because in the first place you have a lot of text on the screen and the user interface of the terminal, because they are only used in the terminal.

TUI requests are not very common, but you get a lot of them anyway. Terminal-based web browsers are a good example of TUI programs. End games also fall into this category.

Fault! The file name is not specified.

a confusing user interface

data-medium-file=https://i2.wp.com/itsfoss.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/cmus-interface.png?fit=300%2C178&ssl=1 data-large-file=https://i2.wp.com/itsfoss.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/cmus-interface.png?fit=734%2C436&ssl=1 load=lazy width=734 height=436 src=https://i2.wp.com/itsfoss.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/cmus-interface.png?resize=734%2C436&ssl=1 alt=cmus User Interface class=wp-image-16747 jetpack-lazyimage data-recalc-dims=1 data-lazy data-lazy-src=https://i2.wp.com/itsfoss.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/cmus-interface.png?resize=734%2C436&is-pending-load=1#038;ssl=1 />CMUS is a terminal-based music player.

You may encounter a TUI when installing multimedia codecs in Ubuntu, in which case you need to accept the EULA or make a selection.

GUI applications are not as useful as GUI applications, and they often use the learning curve, but they are a little easier to use than command line tools.

At the end of the day…

TUI requests are often also considered as CLI requests because they are limited to terminals. In my opinion, it’s up to you to decide if you think they’re different from the CLI.

I hope you enjoyed this part of Linux Jargon Buster. If you have suggestions for topics for this series, please let me know in the comments, and I will try to address them in the future.


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